Drip Drop Teardrop Page 20

Sarah and Jemima kept tugging on her and asking her what was bugging her as she drew on to her tiptoes and tried to see over the crowds. She wanted to tell them but the truth was she knew they would never understand. Maybe they were still too young. Maybe life needed to happen to them more. Shrugging them off with a soft mysterious smile, Avery pushed through the dancing throng on the floor and swept the room for Brennus. Surely she would feel him if he was here. God, she wished he’d come. She wanted to dance with him so badly.

“Looking for someone?”

Avery whirled around, her heart stuck in her throat as she gazed up into the fiercely beautiful face of Anonna. “What are you doing here?”

Anonna sneered at her. “Correcting a mistake.”

Avery flinched as the woman reached for her, her slender fingers wrapping around Avery’s arm in a painful grip. The room blurred and spun around them and Avery stumbled out of the sensation and into a dank basement. Her heart was thumping so hard she felt sick.

“What do you want?” She backed away from Anonna. But the Ankou stalked her right into the cold brick of the basement wall. Her chilled hand slid up Avery’s throat, circling her neck gently but menacingly.

“I was going to let you live, you little fool,” she whispered, her eyes bright with anguish. “But you had to change your mind. You had to come to your senses…”

“How did you…?”

“I’ve been watching. Just in case. I knew you had to fall in love with him.” Her eyes brimmed with emotion, her lashes growing damp with tears. “He’s exquisite darkness.”

Remembering what Brennus had told her about this woman, Avery glared at her. “You didn’t used to think so.”

Anonna’s face sharpened. “I was a stupid, shallow mortal. I know what love is now. I know that you and Brennus can never be, because he and I are linked.”

Avery shook her head. “You’re wrong.”

“You think a silly little girl like you can have what we have? You can never understand Brennus like I do.” She wrenched back from Avery and Avery watched in confusion as Anonna turned, giving her, her back. And then she lifted the hem of her black shirt and drew it up so Avery could see her damaged flesh. Deep lashes, hundreds of them crossing over one another, marred Anonna’s pale flesh. The lines of those lashes reached down past the waistband of her trousers and Avery could only guess that her body was covered with them.

“How?”

Anonna spun back around, her eyes black with hatred. “I gave myself to a man who brutalised me. Despite what I had done to him, Brennus came for me and saved me from that existence. That’s the kind of man he is.”

Avery crumpled inwards. “You really do love him.”

“Yes.” For a moment there only silence, and then a tear slid down Anonna’s cheek. “When I first saw him, I was thrilled that’d he be mine. Other girls, my so-called friends, had married old, fat, rich Roman men and still Papa had not arranged a marriage for me. Instead he took me away from Rome when I was fifteen. I despised Londinium; but soon I began to enjoy the superiority of my high birth among many of inferior origin. At first when Papa told me I’d be marrying a non-citizen I was furious, the other girls would have sneered at me behind my back, so happy to see my downfall. They’d always been jealous of me. But my husband was young and handsome and rich. I thought I loved him just because… we were beautiful together.” She shook her head, a bitter smile curving her lips. “And then he was attacked in the street by that mad man and I wasn’t even frightened that he could have been killed. All I cared about was the hideous scar that took my beautiful husband and replaced him with someone people didn’t want to look at. I hated the thought of him touching me. And Brennus… oh my sweet Brennus, he was so patient. And all the while he pandered to my selfishness I was sleeping with his father.”

“Why?” Avery asked hoarsely, trying to keep the anger out of her question.

Anonna shrugged pitifully. “Because… he looked very much like Brennus. The Brennus I wanted. Not the Brennus that was. And then I fell ill and I couldn’t remember what happened, only that I had awakened to find Brennus was gone. I was angry. Angry and relieved. I was a hateful person, Avery. Hateful. I made many more foolish mistakes after that. And one of them brought me to where I am now. By the time Brennus came to me and explained what he had done for me, who he was, I was so damaged by what had happened to me I would have gone anywhere to be away from that vile man I had given myself over to. So I became Ankou. Brennus didn’t just leave me to stumble through life as an Ankou. At first he visited with me, helped me come to terms with what had happened to me. With it came perfect clarity, and I could see past that scar and into the soul of a man who had given everything for me. It took dying for me to finally love Brennus the way he deserved.”

Avery could feel the waves of pain rushing and undulating out of Anonna and hated the pang of anguish she felt for her.

This woman wanted to take Brennus from her.

“I am sorry, Anonna,” she whispered, “But I think for Brennus, it’s a little too late.”

A strained silence fell between them until Anonna made an odd choking sound. “This is terrible.”

“What?”

She shook her head, her light brown hair seeming black in the darkness of the basement. “You’re a sweet girl, Avery. It makes this so much worse.”

With the same intuition that had told her what Brennus was, Avery understood why Anonna had brought her to this basement; that there would be no talking her down.

The fear came back in air-crushing floods. “Anonna…”

Anonna shook her head. “He loves you. He’d choose you. I have to… I’m sorry.”

Avery had always imagined that if she found herself facing death she would be dignified. Stoic. Like Aunt Caroline. Chin up, eyes blazing with strength and resignation. That’s not the way it was. Avery was so scared her legs buckled and her chin trembled. Knowing you were going to die was terrifying. The helplessness was unbearable. She wasn’t ready. There was no peace. They lied. There was no peace.

“P-please,” she whimpered, shaking her head as tears streamed out of her eyes. “Please d-don’t,” her teeth chattered.

Anonna shook her head and looked away. “I love him.” The knife slid out of the sleeve of her shirt in a practiced motion.

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